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With favorable weather on hand in Roswell, New Mexico, Sunday, Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos team scrambled to make an early-morning launch of his daring mission the edge of space. Liftoff occurred at 8:30 a.m. PDT, and Baumgartner is now on his way up the stratosphere, where he’s hoping to break a 52-year-old skydiving record just days after his first attempt at the record was aborted.
The Austrian daredevil is now being carried by a massive balloon to the upper edge of the stratosphere, where, from an astonishing 23 miles (120,000 feet), he will open the hatch of his small capsule, and jump out.
The climb to jump altitude is estimated to be two hours long, depending on how much ballast is required as they climb. (Stay tuned to video above for updates.)
During the marathon free-fall fraught with risk, he’ll attempt to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. If he does so, it will come 65 years to the day after Chuck Yeager first achieved that goal in his X-1A.
Understandably, butterflies have been multiplying, especially after Tuesday’s emotional stop-and-go roller coaster that ended on a sour note after a gust of wind blew the large balloon toward the ground, forcing the abort.
“I couldn’t tell what was happening with the balloon because I was in the capsule,” said Baumgartner. “I want this to happen this year. We’ve made it so far. There’s no turning back. We’re here, we’ve got the helium, and we’re good to go.”
If Baumgartner and his team succeed, the leap will mark the culmination of the Red Bull Stratos project, which has been seven years in the making and has included practice jumps from 71,580 and 97,146 feet (in March and July, respectively). Viewers can watch the launch, jump, and post-jump news conference via the live feed posted above.
RELATED: Learn more about today’s incredible mission while you wait
Baumgartner, 43, a former military parachutist and star BASE jumper, expects to reach a top speed of about 690 mph, or Mach 1.2, and break the sound barrier.
Although he’ll wear a high-tech pressurized space suit, among the risks he faces are the boiling of his blood, violent spinning, and unknown effects of the sonic boom.
Kittinger is now in charge of flight operations and safety for the Red Bull Stratos project.
“Of course it’s not easy,” Kittinger said. “It takes a special combination [of talent] and the best partner you can have is Felix Baumgartner.”
Baumgartner will make his leap from a pressurized space capsule hoisted above the desert floor by a 55-story-tall stratospheric balloon.
After a free-fall that will span more than five minutes, he’ll deploy his parachute about 5,000 feet above the desert floor.
Family and friends are in Roswell and Baumgartner’s mother, Eva, stated that a successful ending to this dramatic story will be her son’s “biggest dream coming true.”
To give people an idea of what it’s like plummeting so quickly from so high, during the preparation jump last March Baumgartner set a world free-fall speed record of 364.4 mph. The free-fall spanned 3 minutes, 43 seconds, and included a plunge through temperatures as cold as minus-75 degrees.
Baumgartner became so cold that he could hardly move his hands, and the free-fall was so long that he had to fight the urge to deploy the parachute too early. Tuesday’s 23-mile jump will be significantly more challenging.
Said Baumgartner of the mental struggles: “You get claustrophobic fast in the pressurized suit. You start to let your mind go, and you think of people who lost their lives trying to do what Joe Kittinger did. You have to get your mind in a different place. Count backwards … whatever you have to do.”
The Red Bull Stratos team has maintained all along that this is no mere stunt. It’s hoped that the extensive research that went into this mission will benefit future astronauts, and make their missions safer.